ITV’s Victoria aired its fourth episode last night at 21:00. The drama follows the young Queen Victoria in her rise to the throne, and how the 18-year-old adjusts to life as Queen of England. The first three episodes I thought were marvellous. The writing was compelling, the acting phenomenal, the sets and costumes enchanting – it was doing everything right. I even heard musings that ITV had successfully found a replacement for the Sunday night slot that had been occupied by Downton Abbey.
Last week’s episode was simply brilliant. The mystery of Miss Skerrett continued and there was plenty more drama between Victoria and Lord M. The young queen was heartbreakingly turned down when she expressed her feelings, but we saw a depth to Lord Melbourne’s character when he gave her orchids to wear, and he proved himself to be a kind man. Perhaps circumstance prevents he and Victoria being together, and perhaps he really doesn’t have the feelings for her, but he certainly cares about her. Props to the writer for that development – it was handled with sensitivity and emotion.
But this week, I give no such credits.
The problem lies with Victoria and Albert. Now, we know they end up married, but what we want to know is how do they get there? Well this week, in episode 4, the prince finally arrived on the scene. The moustached, stiff upper lip, German princeling didn’t exactly hit it off with the Queen. But it was exactly the kind of mutual dislike that you just know is going to turn into the sparks of romance, it’s such a classic.
But that’s not quite how things turned out here. Neither one liked the other, despite hints at a connection between them when they played the piano together, and were less than overjoyed to be waltzing together, at a dance held for the princes. And this is where those sparks kicked in, helped along by the orchid she wears from Lord Melbourne. Victoria gives the flower to Albert, and poor Lord Melbourne looks on.
After one intense dance, Victoria is suddenly infatuated with Albert, and immediately uproots the household to Windsor. The two share a walk in the woods, and she almost gets a kiss, but they are interrupted by Victoria’s trusty lapdog, who has broken his leg. Albert plays the gallant prince as he bandages the little dog’s leg, and what should be a golden ticket to Victoria’s heart backfires rather spectacularly when they argue about how Victoria rules the country.
Back to hating each other again, it is Lord Melbourne who picks up the pieces and informs Albert that he won’t always be by the Queen’s side, leaving unsaid that this will make room for Albert in Victoria’s life. All in the remaining few minutes of the episode, Victoria puts aside their argument and proposes to Albert. And it’s all tied up in a pretty bow to end this week’s instalment.
But it’s left me feeling flat. I’m unconvinced of the connection between Victoria and Albert, and I can’t see any kind of relationship between them. The events of this week needed to be separated into two episodes, so we might see the couple grow closer and develop and have something real. Lord Melbourne has continued on as before, and indeed is shown to be a man of great feeling; his position is complicated and his character deep. This is the man we can understand has captured Victoria’s heart.
But this to-and-fro with Albert and Victoria has left the former looking like a dull, nothing character, and the latter looking like a silly, fickle little girl. This was a poor way to introduce Albert, though I’m sure (or at least, I hope) we’ll see him develop, but for Victoria this was two steps backwards on how she’s been portrayed in the first episodes. It was infuriating to see the standard plummet, and there was a rather large bee in my bonnet about Victoria’s character suddenly becoming so flighty. It made me question the sympathies I’d felt for her last week – was she really so heartbroken about Lord Melbourne if she could flit to Albert’s side so swiftly? That remains to be seen. For now though, we have to hold out for something better this Sunday.